Blog Career Guidance Sebastian Thrun Tells Harvey Mudd Graduates To ‘Stay Curious and Always Believe in Themselves’

Sebastian Thrun Tells Harvey Mudd Graduates To ‘Stay Curious and Always Believe in Themselves’

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The class of 2019 is entering one of the most dynamic job markets we have ever seen. According to Glassdoor, tech jobs dominated their list of the top 25 highest-paying entry-level positions. Some of the hottest tech careers include software engineers, machine learning engineers, and data scientists to name a few.  That’s why it’s so imperative for new graduates to be skilled in the jobs of today and tomorrow.

As Harvey Mudd College’s 2019 commencement speaker, Sebastian Thrun shared his advice for the graduating class as they prepare to enter the job market. He encouraged the students to be curious and to believe in themselves. He stressed that one of the most rewarding qualities a student can have is to open his or her mind and to think outside of the box. He shared how these qualities helped him grow into the innovator he is today. Watch the full speech here.

Believe in yourself

Everything starts with a belief. Back in 2004, when Sebastian came to Stanford as a professor, the US Government launched the DARPA Grand Challenge which is an epic race for American autonomous vehicles. This was one of a kind challenge where driverless cars were expected to race on a 150-mile track across the Mojave desert. Sadly, none of the robots could finish the route. In fact, the farthest distance covered was just 11km. There were no winners declared and it was concluded that cars would never run without drivers.

This incident didn’t stop Sebastian from challenging his students at Stanford. He asked 20 of his students to build a driverless car that could participate in the next DARPA challenge. Surprisingly, none of these students knew what had happened during the earlier DARPA challenge. 10 months later, STANLEY––Stanford’s self-driving car––won the challenge.

Never give up

A few years later, Google’s co-founder Larry Page took an interest in self-driving cars and contacted Sebastian to develop one that could run on a public road in California. Sebastian declined the request, shrugging it off as impossible. There was no prior data or experience that could prove it possible. Moreover, Sebastian anticipated that in a real-world scenario, a driverless car could potentially harm people. After much persistence, Larry asked Sebastian to give him a technical reason for why a driverless car could not run on the streets of California. Sebastian couldn’t find a reason, so Google’s self-driving car project, now known as Waymo, was born. Within 18-months, Google’s self-driving cars were successfully tested on the streets of California.

Stay curious

Curiosity is the mother of all innovation. What looks like science fiction today, could be a reality tomorrow. Had that not been the case, every innovation we’ve mastered like the telephone or electricity would have just remained science fiction. So after launching Google’s self-driving car project, Sebastian worked on many more ventures like GoogleX, Google Glass, Google Wing, Google Loon, and Google Brain before founding Udacity, the “University of Silicon Valley.” With more than 75,000 Nanodegree program graduates and over 200 industry partners, the Udacity Nanodegree program is well on its way to becoming a de-facto standard for hiring and corporate training in the tech industry.

If Sebastian wasn’t guided by his great curiosity, and his willingness to try the impossible, none of this would have occurred.

The Udacity program is structured with Sebastian’s story in mind, encouraging students to cultivate and grow these qualities as they explore new subjects. The constant urge to believe and learn has helped our students  gain unprecedented success. Students like Kevin Scott and Jeremy Cohen have time and time again shown unbelievable determination and trust in themselves to transform their careers in ways not seen before.

We believe that every student has the power to change the world by creating new opportunities.  Equipped with the right skills, and a strong sense of curiosity, our graduates are prepared to flourish in the competitive world they face. We can’t wait to see what they dream up next.

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